Kenny Britt called Thursday night “hands down the worst game of my life.”
Dropped passes and poor route running plagued the Tennessee Titans receiver against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
His mitts didn’t fail him late. After dropping a touchdown on the previous play, he plucked another would-be drop out of the air for the game-tying score in an eventual 26-23 victory at LP Field.
“Touchdowns, they come and go. Sometimes it is luck and sometimes not,” Britt said. “I know I had some catches that I left out there on the field. I know I can make those plays.”
Whether he believes it or not, he made enough of them to help the Titans (2-4) rally past the Steelers (2-3). He wasn’t alone as fellow playmakers Chris Johnson and Jared Cook lived up to their billing.
Johnson flashed signs of his old self at times, running for 91 yards on 19 carries. His longest run, a 12-yard scamper, opened the drive that ended with Britt’s touchdown. He also had four catches for 23 yards.
“They’ve got the type of defense where you’re not going to see a lot of big runs against them,” Johnson said. “It is the type of fight you are going in knowing you got to take the full five yards and just keep wearing down the defense.”
Except for a 141-yard performance in a blowout performance to Houston, big games have eluded Johnson. He entered with four games of 24 rushing yards or less.
“CJ was a whole different person this week,” said rookie receiver Kendall Wright, who hauled in six catches for a career-high 71 yards. “We were supposed to be here at 4:45, he’s here at 4 o’clock, stretching, warming up, talking in the locker room, being positive. He was a good, positive leader for us [Thursday].”
Cook also rose to the primetime stage.
The 6-foot-5, 248-pound tight end caught all four passes Matt Hasselbeck threw to him. None was bigger than a 25-yard catch-and-run that set up Rob Bironas’ game-winning 40-yard field goal as time expired.
On third-and-five at the 50-yard line, Cook caught a short pass from Hasselbeck and took advantage of a matchup with a linebacker. He ran across the field and galloped down the right sideline, going out of bounds at the 25-yard line to stop the clock with 32 seconds remaining. Two plays later, Bironas split the uprights.
He finished with 44 yards and picked up 19 on a similar play during a scoring drive that ended with a Bironas field goal at the end of the first half.
“It was just a great opportunity for me to come in make a play when we needed it,” Cook said of his fourth-quarter catch. “I just caught it and ran with it and got out of bounds like I knew I had to both times.”
Britt picked an ideal time for his first touchdown since Sept. 28, 2011.
The fourth-year receiver ran almost an identical route the play before and he had the ball in his hands. But he couldn’t hang on as Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor harassed him, even knocking Britt’s helmet off as he tried to swat the ball away.
Trailing 23-16 and not wanting to settle for a field goal, the Titans decided to go right back to Britt on a crucial third down. He got free this time, but the ball bounced off his chest and straight into the air. Luckily, Britt followed the ball right back into his hands to tie the game with 4:25 left.
“Almost at the last second [the defender’s] hands flashed before my eyes and the ball was right there on me,” Britt said. “Then it popped up and I got a second chance at it and I caught it.”
Even with a sore ankle, he finished with a season-high 62 yards.
But he believed there should have been more. He was targeted 11 times but caught only four passes — a performance he’d liked to forget, but one he hopes to use as fuel.
“[Friday] I’m going to get back on the JUGS [machine]. There is no days off for me,” he said. “I know I have a lot of work to make up. I’ve had a rough season. That’s behind me. I’m going to make up for it.”